subject to run-off and pollution in rainy weather
grounds may discourage those with limited mobility
not as secluded or romantic as pricier Hyatt or St. Regis resorts
or supervised daily program of kids’ activities
The 356-room Kauai Marriott Resort is a superlative unto itself. It has beautifully landscaped beachfront grounds, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and one of the largest pools in Hawaii. Rooms are sharp and spacious, featuring a sober business-like style plus balconies, flat-screen TVs, and coffeemakers. With five restaurants and a full spectrum of water sports and other activities on offer, this place works well for both families and couples seeking romance. Several huge ballrooms make it popular for events and business gatherings. Rooms here don't come cheap, but guests get their money’s worth, and it's cheaper than the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort, where rooms are quite dated.
A bustling, upscale resort with sculpture-studded grounds, sheltered beach, and an immense pool
The Kauai Marriott Resort sits right on a small, protected bay with a close-up view of cruise ships when in dock. The Kauai Marriott itself is a lush oasis with a laid-back vacation vibe, teeming with people having fun in the water, the restaurants, and lounges all over the grounds.
And oh, what grounds! There’s a spectacular koi pond in an interior courtyard that looks almost like a botanical garden at first glance. And everywhere on the grounds, Asian sculptures and paintings could make guests think they’re in an outdoor museum. Archaeological artifacts and photographs detailing the history of the area line walkways in glass display cases. Those who don’t like walking might do better at a more compact hotel, but the Marriott has taken great care to provide an extraordinary number of couches and comfortable seating arrangements everywhere on the grounds. One of the nicest places to relax is on the flagstone Aupaka Terrace that overlooks the immense pool, with its fountains and the sea just beyond.
It's not all quiet contemplation here, though, and the poolside and oceanfront restaurants draw crowds, keeping the scene here ever bustling, particularly at the reasonably priced “barefoot bar” at Duke’s. Families do pass through here, though the lack of kid-specific amenities mean some parts of the beach and pool can be rowdy. As such, couples and business groups are the most frequent guests.
On a sheltered cove, a five-minute drive from the airport
The Kauai Marriott is in Nawiliwili Harbor, where cruise ships and other yachts dock. A small cluster of tourist shops and restaurants line the road near the Marriott, but the resort itself sits well off the highway, fronted by a golf course on one side and Kalapaki Beach on the other. Anyone wanting to explore Kauai will need a car. It's only a five-minute drive to the airport and 10 minutes by car to the retail hubbub in Lihue -- the county seat and most developed town in Kauai. Wailua Waterfall is a five-minute drive, and it's a little over 10 minutes by car to snorkeling at Lydgate State Park. Kapaa is a 15- to 20-minute drive away, and has lots of charming shops and restaurants, while the north shore sights like Hanalei Beach and the Na Pali Coast are 60 to 90 minutes away by car.
Large, stylish rooms with upscale bathrooms, coordinated decor, and luxurious bedding
While the rooms have a business-ready style that's a bit sober for a beachfront getaway, they are still fresh, handsome, and clean, making them a solid value when paired with the resort's wealth of features. At 425 square feet (39 square meters), even entry-level rooms have plenty of space. Furniture comes in dark wood tones with clean lines, while earth-tone patterned carpeting reflects the colors in bed skirts. Red and orange upholstered headboards add colorful highlights, while pillows, couches, and framed nature photographs bring it all together in complementary shades.
Standard features include mini-fridges, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, coffeemakers with local coffee, desks with ergonomic chairs, and large safes. All rooms have furnished balconies, though 48 of the hotel's rooms only look out at the parking lot. Bathrooms, too, are a notch above the norm with their vessel sinks, black quartz counters, opaque glass doors, separate water closets, Kohler fixtures, rainfall showerheads, Thann botanical amenities, and fancy scrollwork lighting.
Those with a big budget might opt for one of the nine stunning 1000-square-foot oceanfront suites. These have gorgeous two-sided views, one of the sea and one of the pool, and massive wrap-around lanais with cushy seating for eight. The designer bathrooms have double sinks, whirlpool tubs, granite shower stalls, and separate water closets. There's a wet-bar, a generous living room with an L-shaped fold-out couch and contemporary designer furnishings, a dining room with table and six chairs, and a king bedroom.
Plenty to see and do, including cultural activities, golf, spa treatments, and business facilities
This resort's hefty price tag translates into a serious wealth of features, though the lack of a kids' club and little other children's entertainment disappoints the families that stay here. A full schedule of cultural activities include lei and jewelry making, lauhala weaving, Hawaiian glass etching, and garden tours. A scavenger hunt and movie night are also offered weekly. A weekly luau is a highlight, and there's live local music at Duke’s several times a week.
The 24-hour fitness center has a separate aerobics room and plenty of equipment, but it’s windowless other than for the glass door leading out to the hallway. The resort provides apples and water, and free classes include yoga and aerobics. Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses are a bonus for many guests as well. The well-regarded Alexander Day Spa offers a full menu of massages (indoors or in an outdoor cabana), waxing, body treatments, manicures and hair cuts/styling.
The daily resort fee covers “free” self-parking or discounted valet parking, choice of complementary Mai Tai’s, coffee, or breakfast pastries; complementary domestic and international calls, hula lessons, fitness classes, in-room WiFi, discounts at Enterprise Rent a Car and the Alexander Day Spa and Salon onsite, free airport transportation, bottled water on arrival and departure, and complementary dessert at one of the hotel’s restaurants. If dirty laundry piles up, guests can use the coin-operated washers and dryers provided.
One thing that sets the Marriott Resort apart are the extensive meeting room facilities. The resort has the largest banquet hall on the island, with 20,000 square feet of event space divided among several ballrooms that can be subdivided into smaller rooms. Events and meetings are a frequent occurrence at the resort. The Business Center is a bit stingy in size given the number of guests at this hotel, but it does provide three computers and a printer. There’s also a separate “boarding pass printing station.” Lots of weddings take place here, and those so inclined will find a wedding shop and wedding planner right on premises.
Safe for swimming and beginner surfing, but subject to runoff when rainy
While the small ocean cove fronting the Kauai Marriott Resort certainly presents an idyllic view and usually calm waters, guests should be aware that Nawiliwili Harbor does get polluted with runoff after rainstorms, when bathing is ill-advised. After several days of sunshine, though, the protected waters here are safe and pleasant for swimming. A little farther out, gentle rollers make for great beginner surfing and paddleboarding. Locals catch waves here, too, meaning the water is rarely empty. Shade from palm trees makes the nearby lawn a pleasant place to hang out on the lounges provided by the hotel. Guests can opt to rent private cabanas if they choose.
One of the largest and most attractive in Hawall, with five whirlpool tubs
The gargantuan pool here is a show-stopper by any standards, with its 1.8 million black and blue mosaic tiles, center island with palm trees, four fountains. It includes five built-in whirlpool spas under pillared ceilings. With 500 chaises on the surrounding deck, finding a place to sit usually isn’t a problem. The pool measures 210 feet across, making it one of Hawaii’s largest. Several restaurants and a pool activity desk flank the deck. There’s also a kid’s pool nearby.
Five eateries for all three meals plus open-air dining and drinking
Five restaurants ensure that guests have all three meals plus snacks covered without having to leave the premises. Breakfast, though, is an all-or-(almost) nothing affair, limited to grab-and-go continental offerings on the Aupaka Terrace, or a pricey buffet poolside at Kukui’s. Kukui’s also serves dinner, with menu offerings featuring local produce, fish, and meats prepared Pacific Rim style. The open-air ambience is nice, but dinner gets mixed reviews from previous guests. The Toro-Tei enclave at the front of Kukui’s offers a sushi and sake bar, and lunch is served at the well-liked Kalapaki Grill.
The fanciest option is Cafe Portofino, serving pricey Northern Italian dinners. Duke's Canoe Club is probably the most popular spot at the resort. The barefoot bar menu is casual, affordable, and the up-close views of the water are excellent. The massive hula pie dessert is not to be missed. Locals come to enjoy the music at night, which means that it’s often crowded, particularly during Aloha hour and on the dirt-cheap taco Tuesdays.
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